Keyword Ownership: What It Is And Where Its Headed

Have you ever got one of those silly emails that offers to let you own a keyword? Silly question. How many such emails do you get every day?

A number of such services regularly email me offering keyword ownership of premium keywords for $300/year. They say that anyone can type the keyword I bought in the address bar of Internet explorer, instead of typing in a URL, and they will be sent directly to my site. In total it seems that there are about 2% of Internet users worldwide who have enabled one type or another of this system, spread out between a few competitive services.

Data shows that between 4% and 7% of search queries are performed by entering something in the address bar. By default for IE users, these searches are automatically routed through to MSN search. Many of us however have installed so much software over time, and unknowingly, some of this software has re-routed these search queries to other search portals, such as iGetNet, or others. This often happens if you've installed any file sharing software. We have all heard / read about how many extra 'features' come with programs like Kazaa. This means that your default search from the address bar may no longer be MSN, and may have been rerouted elsewhere, but the basic principle still applies. Of the queries that are actually run from an address bar, at least half of them are unintentionally instigated by people mistyping the desired URL. This means that between 2% and 4% of Internet users actually search via their address bar.

So how exactly do these address bars work? There are many of these companies offering this kind of service, with each one of them selling the very same keywords to different and sometimes competing companies. To make things worse, the keywords you might buy will only work with the issuing companys proprietary address bar plug-in. Then, to actually offer search capabilities from the address bar, each of these service providers needs to get individual Internet users to download and install their plug-in, and remember to run searches from the address bar.

How effective can a marketing strategy of this nature be when the various tools are not interchangeable, there are numerous competitors selling the same key words to different companies, and you are targeting only a small fraction of Internet users? If your ad is being displayed because its similar to the search query, are you paying for irrelevant results? This can happen; If there is not a perfect match to a search query, the next closest match may be displayed.

Competing with these companies is any search engine that offers its own toolbar. You can download a toolbar from any number of engines, and run searches on any key word or phrase quickly and easily. You then get the search engines selection of closest matches, from all the web sites they have indexed. They offer more than just one choice, and dont cost anything

Who Started This?

Started in 1998, Realnames was the first company that tied searching via the address bar to a web browser. At the time, it was touted as a value added solution for businesses around the world who were attempting to get their products found quickly, but didn't want customers to have to wade through a sea of Web addresses to reach their destination.

In part, it was deemed necessary because so few web site operators were search engine savvy, and fewer still knew anything about search engine optimization and promotion. What the Realnames solution did was allow a web site operator to buy a keyword, and then when any user of Internet Explorer would type that keyword into the IE address toolbar, they would get directed to the web site that owned the keyword.

The company hoped to profit from businesses which wanted to reach Internet users who would type keywords into their browsers address bar instead of remembering the url, or going through a standard search interface.

Unfortunately for the company, the service was entirely dependent on Microsoft; and when Microsoft stopped supporting the technology in May 2002, the company was forced to close. The reason it was so totally dependent was simple; Unlike the new companies on the market today, Realnames did not depend on an end user downloading and installing a plugin, instead it was essentially integrated into Internet Explorer by Microsoft. Therefore everyone who used IE automatically had the plugin.

The Legal Question

Each of the companies offering these services has a policy designed to ensure that a web site only buys keywords related to their content, and their review process is designed to keep cybersquatters from hijacking popular names and products. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that any one of these keyword ownership services adheres to any naming standard, or even ensures that any purchaser has the legal right to any of the terms they are buying. This means that the rights to copyrighted material like "Pepsi" or generic words like "business" could end up in the hands of the first buyer. While Pepsi is a well known brand name, there are millions of copyrighted and trademark protected terms, covered in multiple jurisdictions. It would not be cost effective or practical for these services to police copyright and trademark infringement.

In the summer of 1999, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, denied Playboy's request for an injunction barring a search engine from selling advertising based on the terms playboy and playmate. In the precedent setting ruling regarding keyword advertising, Judge Stotler of the United States District Court in Santa, Ana, California, dismissed a lawsuit brought by Playboy Enterprises against the search engine Excite, Inc. and Netscape. The ruling limited the online rights of trademark holders, as it recognized that a trademark may be used without authorization by search engines in advertising sales practices.

Playboy claimed that the search engines were displaying paid banner ads from pornographic web sites whenever "playboy" or "playmate" were used as a search term. As the owner of the trademarks for both terms, Playboy argued that the use of its trademarks for a third party sales scheme was trademark infringement and branding dilution.

In the ruling dismissing Playboy's case, the Judge found that Excite had not used the trademarks "playboy" and "playmate" in an unlawful manner. This was because Excite had not used the trademarked words to identify Excites own goods or services and therefore trademark infringement laws did not apply. It was further determined that even if there was trademark usage, there was no infringement because there was no evidence that consumers confused Playboy products with the services of Excite or Netscape.

What about within Meta Tags?

Is it illegal to use trademarked terms in your meta tags? Sometimes. The problem occurs with how and why you are using the terms. Web sites that use the tags in a deceptive manner have lost legal battles. However, legitimate reasons to use the terms have resulted in successful defenses.

In a case involving Playboy, the firm was able to prove trademark infringement, based on use of their trademark in meta tags, url and content on the web site. The case was filed by the firm against web site operators for stuffing their web pages with the words Playboyand Playmatehundreds of times. Furthermore, the defendants were also using the terms Playboy and Playmate in the site names, URLs, and slogans. In this case the Judge ruled for Playboy, as there was a clear case of trademark infringement.

In the separate case, Playboy vs. Terri Welles, the court refused Playboy's request. The reason was simple. Terri Welles was Playboy's 1981 Playmate of the Year. She had used the terms "Playmate" and "Playboy" on her web pages and within her meta tags, and the Court felt she had a legitimate right to use them to accurately describe herself, and to ensure that the search engines could catalog her web site properly within their databases. Playboy's appeal was dismissed on Feb. 1, 2002.

In Summary

It is clear that if you have a legitimate reason to use a trademarked word or phrase in your web site you can. You may also rent their ownership from one of the keyword ownership companies. Be careful, though, it is possible that may get sued.

Does the technology work? Yes, but only for some of the approximately 3% of Internet users worldwide who have installed any one of a variety of competing plugins that enable this type of searching. I stress a fraction of the 3%, as you would need to buy the keywords from each individual vendor to ensure reaching all 2%.

About The Author

Richard Zwicky is a founder and the CEO of Metamend Software, www.metamend.com, a Victoria B.C. based firm whose cutting edge Search Engine Optimization software is recognized as the world leader in its field. Employing a staff of 10, the firm's business comes from around the world, with clients from every continent. Most recently the company was recognized for their geo-locational, or GIS, along with their phraseology technology and context sensitive search technologies.

[email protected]

In The News:

This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news

Search Engine Land

5 SEO trends that will matter most in 2019 - Search Engine Land
Search Engine Land
To be atop the waves, think about your SEO strategy in advance. A shortcut to success: get to know the upcoming trends and work out an action plan for each.
Google Launches New Tool That Grades A Site's SEO ImplementationSearch Engine Journal
The Search Future: Plan Your 2019 SEO TacticsValueWalk
Get Your Website on Google's Front Page with These SEO ToolsXDA Developers (blog)
Born2Invest -Technotification -Search Engine Roundtable
all 20 news articles »

Search Engine Journal

When Does User-First SEO Not Apply?
Search Engine Journal
Editor's note: “Ask an SEO” is a weekly column by technical SEO expert Jenny Halasz. Come up with your hardest SEO question and fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!


Google Launches New SEO Tool To Help Developers, Websites
ValueWalk
Google never likes talking about its search engine algorithms, but the company often goes the extra mile to help websites and developers offer the best user experience. The search engine giant has launched a new SEO tool to let developers and ...

and more »

Search Engine Journal

3 Social Media Strategies You Can Use to Boost Your SEO
Search Engine Journal
One of the most common realities we see in the enterprise-size companies we work with is the almost total separation of organic SEO and social media within marketing departments. This is tragic because social media marketing should be one of the most ...

and more »

Search Engine Journal

SEO Contest Exposes Weakness in Google's Algorithm
Search Engine Journal
Search Engine Journal - SEO, Search Marketing News and Tutorials · Rss · Twitter · Facebook. Follow Us. LinkedIn · YouTube · Instagram · Reddit · Google Plus · Pinterest. Follow Us. Rss · Twitter · Facebook · Instagram · Youtube · google plus. SEO. All ...


Search Engine Journal

7 Key Considerations When Developing Your In-House SEO Structure
Search Engine Journal
In-house SEO is a different beast than agency SEO. With in-house SEO, you're typically in charge of one website, rather than 50 websites at once. Your focus shifts toward a long-term, holistic approach to website SEO rather than the mechanical approach ...


Forbes

Four E-Commerce SEO Trends To Prepare For In 2019
Forbes
Meanwhile, e-commerce businesses that already have SEO marketing strategies in place need to also adapt to these changes if they want to remain relevant and dominate their respective markets. Make one SEO mistake, and you could set your business ...
SEO Friendly Pagination: A Complete Best Practices GuideSearch Engine Journal

all 3 news articles »

Search Engine Land

Solving complex SEO problems require a new 'discovery' approach
Search Engine Land
At SMX East I attended the “Solving Complex SEO Problems When Standard Fixes Don't Apply” session with presenters Hannah Thorpe, Head of SEO Strategy at Found, and Arsen Rabinovitch, Founder and CEO at TopHatRank.com. Here are key learnings ...


HempLife Today Gives Shareholder Update on Positive Progress of Search Engine Optimization, Expects SEO to ...
GlobeNewswire (press release)
As previously stated in the August 29th release, “Through more robust SEO programming the Company believes it can increase organic web traffic exponentially as awareness of hemp CBD, and hemp related interest reaches critical mass in the population.

and more »

Entrepreneur

The Sneaky Way SEO Spam Is Costing You Business -- And How to Stop It
Entrepreneur
Small businesses are losing business and potentially harming their reputations because of SEO spam cyberattacks. These attacks are known as search engine poisoning (SEP) attacks. As the name implies, the desired outcome (i.e., action on objective) of ...
Video: Google Spooky Search Updates, Search Console Domain ...Search Engine Roundtable
Digital Marketing Agencies and SEO Providers Boost Business and Lead Generation with New Software Powered by ...MarTech Series
Seven bad SEO tactics that would cost your rankingElite Business Magazine

all 13 news articles »
Google News

10 Minutes to Your Google Sitemap

Google's calling your name...Hi, Google here. We want to index... Read More

Mindset from Yahoo!- Changing the SEO Game

Yahoo! has a developed a new concept in search engine... Read More

Top 2 Ways To Get Higher Rankings in Major Search Engines

Top 10 search engine rankings. Everybody wants it but a... Read More

Abandoned by Google! Googlebot, Wherefore Art Thou Googlebot?

As a search engine optimization specialist I often optimize existing... Read More

Should You Buy Text Links?

You can rank number one (Or at least in the... Read More

Surviving Googles Aging Delay

Google has always been the search industry's innovator and that's... Read More

The Secret To Getting Indexed In Yahoo

Getting indexed in Yahoo has become very difficult in the... Read More

Submitting to the Search Engines and WebCrawlers

When you want your brand new site to be indexed... Read More

Search Engine Optimization Strategies To Drive More Targeted Traffic To Your Website

Want to drive more targeted traffic to your web site?Want... Read More

The Best 7 Steps To Get A Top Google Ranking Guaranteed

Google returns more search results then any other search engine.... Read More

Why SEO (as we know it) is Doomed to Failure and How You Can Avoid the Trap

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become one of the biggest... Read More

Press Release + PRWeb = Top Google Rank... True or False?

I've always been a big time press release aficionado.And up... Read More

Introduction to Google Page Rank (PR)

For anyone looking to enhance their Google Page Rank (PR)... Read More

The Myth of Rankings - Beyond Search Engine Optimization

What follows is a condensed version of a conversation that... Read More

The Smart Way To Get Listed On Google!

So you want to get listed on Google? And you... Read More

Search Engine Optimisation: The Soon to be Impossible Dream!

There are today search engine and internet marketing services, in... Read More

Is Reciprocal Link Exchange Dead?

The sun seems to be setting on the world of... Read More

The Changing Face of Search Engine Optimization

With the ever evolving internet market for just about anything... Read More

Cache in the Bank: Understanding Googles Advanced Operators

If you would like to know when your site was... Read More

Google ? A Bit of History

The first question most people have is, "What the heck... Read More

1 Simple SEO Strategy To Get More Visitors To Your Site From Google

Did you know that you can dramatically increase the number... Read More

How to Get One Way Backlinks

Don't be fooled into believing that all backlinks are created... Read More

Ranked #1 at Google for Invisible Entrepreneurs But No Traffic?

I am ranked #1 for that silly phrase at Google.... Read More

Tread Towards A Successful ?Internet Research?

Internet is a terrific resource containing billions of web pages... Read More

Lets Make Your Website #1

Their is simple way of making your website rank top... Read More